// Raiders of the Lost Art

A rummage through some boxes of old belongings reminded Aaron Whear that despite advances in technology, there’s still much value to be had from doing some things the old fashioned way.

I have been spending a lot of time with my six-year-old son Kayden recently, and I have been amazed at how interested he is in things from previous eras. For example, we were recently cleaning out the garage and stumbled across some of my old cricket gear from when I was a junior, a Fitzroy Football Club duffel coat that I used to wear to games, and some old video tapes of such classics as Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark. So what does any of this have to do with business? Well, it got me thinking that just because a technique is not new, it does not mean that it isn’t interesting or useful.

A massive realisation for me this year has been that getting on the telephone ‘old school’ style and communicating with my database of prospects or existing clients has proved very effective, both in terms of building relationships and for generating income. In fact, getting on the phone instead of relying solely on electronic mediums, such as email and text, has allowed me to continue to grow my businesses in a way that would not have been possible otherwise. Read on to learn how simply picking up the telephone can help your business.

A point of difference

Actually speaking to people in person is so ‘old school’ in the electronic age that it is actually a point of difference from the service most personal trainers provide. The reasons more trainers don’t make phone calls are a lack of education about how powerful the process can be, and a lack of confidence because they fear that the person receiving the call will find it annoying and not want to speak with them. The reality is that you are not cold-calling, you are only contacting clients and people you have had contact with previously, and, in my experience, most people are very happy that you are taking an interest in them outside of paid appointment times.

Not every client or prospect will open email

Although email is a fantastic medium for communicating with clients – particularly if you are providing detailed information or links to relevant articles and resources – a percentage of your client and prospect database will not open and read the emails you send. Now please don’t misinterpret what I am saying to mean that you shouldn’t send e-mails, as nothing could be further from the truth. Emails should form one part of an integrated marketing system in which you send your database a combination of electronic messages, backed up, of course, by phone calls.

What to say?

Rather than use a script for your conversation, it is better to use a template. A script which is required to be read word for word can be too rigid and unnatural sounding for a lot of people’s tastes. Think of a bad telemarketing call you have received and you’ll know what I mean! A template, on the other hand, provides several open-ended questions that should be asked to give the conversation some flow and structure.

The ‘how’s it going?’ phone call

This phone call works beautifully for anybody who is serious about making their business successful. So how does it work in practice? Firstly, rule off 45 minutes in your diary each day at a time to suit you for your ‘how’s it going’ phone call. Then telephone an ‘A’ class, i.e. the 20 per cent of clients who represent 80 per cent of your income (click here for more on the 80/20 rule or Pareto principle). The key is to call clients that you don’t need to phone, simply to ask them ‘how’s it going?’ The reason this phone call works is that the biggest complaint clients have is that ‘they only hear from us when they want something’. Therefore, if we want to change the dynamic of this relationship we should at least occasionally call and ask ‘how’s it going’ as a proactive rather than a reactive strategy. In terms of the mechanics of the conversation, you should encourage the client to dominate by talking about themself; to quote the Ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes ‘We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less’. To keep the conversation flowing, use the ‘W questions’, possibly in a template, asking who, when, which, what, why, where and how?

If you follow these simple steps, you’ll be amazed at what your clients will tell you. They’ll open up to you about their plans, ideas and problems, and about colleagues and competitors – much of which they would never have thought to tell you about. Certainly they wouldn’t have thought to pick up the phone and share it with you. What this means, from a business perspective, is more business or referrals.

My challenge to you – if you are serious about building your business – is to start ‘raiding the lost art’ of making phone calls today, and every other day after that, as a component of your overall marketing strategy.

Aaron Whear
Aaron is the managing director of Career Fitness and has helped hundreds of people train for and enhance their career in the fitness industry. Career Fitness offers a mentoring service for individual instructors and ‘in-house’ training workshops for gyms and personal training studios. To learn more visit www.careerfitness.com.au or, even better, phone 03 9395 4455.